Podcast: Our favourite female characters

In this podcast, Liam Mackay, Bryce Arthur, Jade du Preez and Olivia Hill discuss their favourite favourite female characters in film.

You can also check out our movie and TV news round-up here!

Bask in the glow of the Female Warrior

For years, wrestling has been seen as a man’s world. A place where David meets Goliath, where musclebound alpha males meet in the middle of the ring to settle the score.

Whilst women have been featured, often the emphasis would shift from athletic competition to beauty pageant, with wrestlers acting as eye candy and fighting in sexually fuelled storylines and matches. However, the diva-driven days of old have slowly been left behind, and the age of the strong female competitor is upon us.

Wrestling giants WWE, once responsible for such content as the “bra and panties match” and forced lesbian love affairs are now working to right the wrongs of the past, holding women’s only pay per views and creating a female tag team championship tournament – the first in the company’s history. Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey made the jump to the wrestling company last year, and is rumoured to become the first woman, alongside Charlotte Flair (daughter of legendary hall of fame wrestler Ric Flair) to headline the company’s global attraction, Wrestlemania.

These changes are set to make a positive impact on the portrayal of women throughout the industry, from the top of the mountain at WWE to the path along the way.

Glasgow wrestler Emily Haden has spent the last seven years honing her craft up and down the country, recently taking part in an all-woman battle royale at the Jam House, in Edinburgh. Reflecting on changes in recent years, she is glad of the positive steps forward.

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(Credit: Emily Hayden)

“Oh, I welcome the change!” She exclaims “It’s great to see women presented with the same opportunities as our male counterparts. Wrestling has always been a male dominated sport so I find it exciting to see women being given the chance to go from ‘Bra and Panties’ matches to a TLC match for example. The sky is the limit these days to what else women can do. There’s been so many women within wrestling who have been breaking down doors and shattering glass ceilings so it’s about time we see the big pay off.”

Growing up, Haden rarely missed a show of Monday Night Raw, WWE’s flagship programme. Watching as a young girl, the show portrayed the female characters a lot differently in the early 2000’s than they do in 2019.

“Women were always sexualised and used as ‘eye candy’ for the men in the audience” Emily recalls “whether it be a valet/manager spot or with matches like Bra and Panties, Evening Gown and Playboy matches”

But there were a few diamonds in the rough, strong women attempting to break the mould and make a change in what was considered a “Diva” era.

“We did have women like Lita, Trish Stratus, Victoria and even more recently, A.J. Lee, who were strong women. Yes, they weren’t afraid to be sexy with photoshoots and whatnot but they stood out for their in-ring talent as well as their looks.”

The showcasing of WWE’s female division has reverberated throughout the entire wrestling community: more and more female showcases are appearing in many companies around the world, including Fierce Females, an all-women wrestling promotion based in Glasgow.

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(Credit: Mrs Wilson Photography)

Emily doesn’t believe that this equality was an overnight sensation, rather years of pioneering young women. “I’d like to argue that there is no specific point in which a positive change started happening, I feel like this has been building up over the course of many years through a variety of strong, empowering women paving the way for future wrestlers to become trailblazers in their own right. Every one of them helped to make this women’s revolution possible.”

The future looks bright for women in the wrestling industry, now held on an equal pedestal in such a male dominated industry. Emily is proud to be a part of the wrestling scene, but aware that the fight isn’t quite over yet.“Women are being given great opportunities especially after having to fight so hard to get them. I feel the hard work isn’t done though. I feel we still have some work to go before we can say we have evolved from ‘this is great for a women’s match!’ for example. There should never be that factor taken into the calibre of a match.”

Thanks to the trailblazers that came before her, and the empowered young women she stands with, Emily believes that there is unlimited potential for women who stand inside the squared circle in 2019.

“The sky is the limit to what can be achieved and we’re just getting started. I can’t wait to see the journey that wrestling will take with this women’s revolution”.

Female wrestlers have also broke through to popular culture in the movies, with recent release Fighting With My Family documenting the rise of WWE superstar Paige. Read our review here.

How Scotland’s feminist organisation is fighting for 2019 to be our most equal year yet

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In 2018, the idea that anyone should be denied rights or opportunities because of their gender seemed truly ridiculous. 

But, following the #metoo movement which dominated the mass media last year, women across the world are becoming more aware of inequality and how it affects them on a daily basis.  

In Scotland, changes are being made to reduce and remove the social and economic barriers faced by both women and men across the country. The ​Equality Act of 2010​ ​brought together existing equality legislation and paved the way for increased focus on inequality relating to a vast array of categories from age to disability and gender reassignment.

Engender is Scotland’s feminist membership organisation that specifically has a vision for the country to become a society in which men and women have equal opportunities in life, equal access to resources and power, and are equally safe from harm. 

Ayls Mumford, the communications and engagement manager of Engender, explains what actions the organisation is taking to fight inequality in Scotland. 

“Engender works on every issue of women’s equality and tries to make changes to improve the lives of women and girls in Scotland. 

“We’re mainly a policy organisation, so we do research, write briefings, and try to influence parliament and legislation — but we also host events and talks to groups across the country and really try to spread the word of women’s equality,” Alys explains at the start of the interview. 

Engender works on a whole range of issues because — as Alys herself puts it – “once you start looking at the world you realise that every issue is an issue of women’s inequality because we live in a patriarchal society.” 

A few years ago, Engender held a vast consultation process called ‘Gender Matters’ where Alys and her team met with women and girls around Scotland to uncover what prevalent issues were affecting women at the time. 

The organisation then launched its ‘Gender Matters Road Map’ which sets out a series of suggestions for the Scottish Government and other bodies how to move towards greater women’s equality by 2030. 

The plan was developed in collaboration with female activists across Scotland, the women’s sector and wider stakeholders, and is divided up into ten key areas aimed to target all aspects of inequality, of which one key focus is that of social security. 

Since austerity took over in the UK, 86% of cuts come from women’s incomes and, considering women are twice as dependant on social security as men, it’s clearly an issue that disproportionately affects women. 

“One thing we’ve been working really hard on is the idea of offering individual payments in universal credit, and this is a really good example of feminist policy work because it seems like a really tiny thing, but it would have a massive impact,” Alys says. 

Universal credit combines separate social security entitlements into one household payment rather than giving it to individuals in a household. 

“In most households in Scotland that would go to the man which obviously undermines the idea of equality and the idea of social security entitlements which are meant for particular people. But it’s also particularly damaging obviously for women who are in abusive relationships or have controlling partners – it removes all access to independent finances,” she says. 

Thanks to the work of Engender, the Scottish parliament pledged to implement default independent payments for social security: a massive step for women and their ability to participate in public life in Scotland on the same basis as men. 

Simultaneously, Engender works on decriminalising abortion. 

“Abortion still sits within criminal justice rather than health and that’s because the law has carried on from the UK, so the recent devolving of powers has been a great opportunity for Engender to discuss how and why abortion is a fundamental women’s right,” Alys explains. 

It is organisations such as Engender that really bridge the gap between women and issues such as inequality, allowing us to access the right information and begin making the moves that can ultimately abolish inequality in Scotland. 

When asked about the current state of equality in Scotland, and if we have much further to go in achieving an equal society, Ayls has the most realistic of opinions. 

“I think we still have a really long way to go when it comes to equality in Scotland, but what’s really exciting is that there are more and more people getting it and getting involved,” Alys says. 

“There’s still an awful lot of work to be done to deepen our understanding of inequality — in that it’s not just about different genders, but also white women having more privilege than women of colour, than trans women, than disabled women – and realising that if we’re not fighting for equality for all women, we’re not fighting for equality at all.”  

Jessica Jones – A mixing pot of neo-noir mystery and female empowerment

Kirsten Ritter as Jessica Jones Image Credit: Netflix

Arguably the best of Netflix Marvel’s TV returns for a second season- providing a perfect cultural avatar that reflects the outrage and unity of the Post #MeToo world.

The second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones was released last week to coincide with National Woman’s day. This happened for a very important reason. IT is a show created for and about woman.

Each of the 13 episodes in the second season was directed by woman and, while Marvel do often have strong female characters in their films and tv shows. This is their first creation with a female lead.

It is no secret that the world of comic books and their mainstream superhero’s has been a male dominated market. All the recent Marvel success’ – Avengers Assemble, Spiderman: Homecoming, Captain America, Thor – all feature men as the main hero, idols of super strength and unatural power.

Scarlett Johansson as Marvel’s Natalia Romanoff ( The Black Widow) Image Credit: Marvel Studios

However the woman in the Marvel universe usually fall within one of two categories.There is the ‘love interest’, or to put it more accurately, the damsel in distress. The classic narrative trope of man saves woman, who seems to get into trouble at every turn. Then there is the ‘flawless’ heroine. With their flawless fight sequences where their hair and make-up are always precise, clad in skin-tight spandex, and always equipped with a sarcastic line or funny quip as a comeback.

It was then that Jessica Jones broke the mold. Jones lives by herself, runs her own private investigator business, and is the very definition of anti-social. A woman dealing with the horrors of her past and is angry being labeled and told what to do by others. Oh and just so happens to have super strength as the result of being experimented on.

Jones is angry at the world. She and those closest to her where victim to many horrendous crimes and injustices. Repeatedly and often brutally committed by mostly men. Jones has been orphaned, raped, exploited, and generally abused by those in positrons of power. Both human and Superhuman in nature.

And it’s the ways she copes, or doesn’t, with her anger, superhuman alcoholism and tendency to rely on her fist to solve her problems that made her an icon. An embodiment of all the emotions in this post #MeToo age.

Kirsten Ritter, the actor who plays Jones, has had many people come up to her with praise for the character.

Real women on the street came up to me in tears because this was the first time they felt represented by the lead; it made them feel so much better about their own traumas,” Ritter says. “Even hearing women saying they were excited to see a badass female character was great: people responded to her in such a huge way.”

The series broaches some serious issues, such as abortion, rape, domestic abuse, and addiction. But it does so with a deft hand. Offering a new perspective on trauma, that even those with power can be rendered defenseless. That these issues can be subject to anyone. It re-writes the victim narrative so that the viewer can begin to understand a fraction of how abuse can affect someone.

Overall the show offers a message of hope and inspiration. Showing the difficulties that survivors face, that opening up can help even though its hard and that most of all , Jones wasn’t to blame. This is all the while fighting her demons, both metaphorically and literal.

Watch the season 2 trailer here:

Womanhood and Donald Trump’s presidency

“Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” Donald Trump told voters during first presidential debate.

However, he has been accused of sexual assault from more than a dozen women – which Trump has denied, and he has threatened to sue them once the election is over, along with publications such NBC that have printed the allegations.

Trump has called them “sick” and “liars” who were only hungry for fame.

The brand new American President has also been widely condemned for making crude jokes about Hillary Clinton’s personal life, insulting his former rival Carly Fiorina’s looks, and joking it would be a “pretty picture” if Celebrity Apprentice contestant Brande Roderick was to “drop to her knees.”

Kathrine Razai and Jaine Haggie, strong opinionated feminists from Edinburgh, fear for women’s future with Trump as new U.S. President.

“He openly jokes about a woman’s ‘place’ – he has repeatedly stated that women should stay at home, look after the household and other old fashioned and hurtful stereotypes. After everything we (women) have fought for, we are going back in time.” said Kathrine.

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The election of Donald Trump is cause for concern for not only women, but the LGBT community, people of colour, and Muslims.

“His victory puts so many people in danger and encourages ever growing hatred. It promotes the idea that you can be accused of rape and sexual assault and still be a viable candidate to hold one of the most powerful positions in the world. It is an indication to young girls across the U.S. that no matter how hard they work, they will never be good enough and they will be objectified and criticised at all points throughout their lives,” added Jaine.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society women’s right and equality, agrees that Trump’s victory is a massive backwards step for women and for equality. 

“Those who think misogyny played no part in the vote are kidding themselves. The fact that such a high percentage of white women voted for Trump also speaks volumes about internalised misogyny. Not only does Trump plan to build a wall, he had reinforced the glass ceiling.”

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 Most people think that this vote suggests that people either overlooked and underestimated Trump’s behaviour and beliefs, or thought it was OK. Both of these suggestions implies that women’s rights are in jeopardy. Women all over America now have to focus on defending their rights and freedoms.

 

 

 

 

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